A division bench reserved orders for November 28 on Monday
The Madras High Court would pronounce orders on Tuesday on the petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Government and five district collectors, challenging the summons issued to the Collectors by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its probe into alleged illegal sand mining in the state.
A division bench comprising Justices S S Sundar and Sundar Mohan on Monday reserved orders for November 28 on the petition filed by the state Public Department Secretary K Nanthakumar on behalf of the Collectors of Ariyalur, Vellore, Thanjavur, Karur and Tiruchirapalli, which sought to quash the summons issued by the ED asking them to appear in person on various dates with details of sand mining in their respective districts.
The bench reserved orders, after hearing elaborate arguments from senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the state government and Additional solicitor general A R L Sunderesan, appearing for the ED.
In his petition, Nanthakumar submitted that under the garb of investigation, the ED has resorted to issuing summons to various district collectors, asking for information on all sand mines in their district in a fishing and roving enquiry.
It has issued the summons to the district collectors, directing them to appear before the agency on various dates allegedly for conducting an investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The summons have been issued illegally, contrary to the provisions of the Act and with a view to harass and undermine the state machinery by conducting a fishing and roving enquiry.
He said the summons issued to the collectors to furnish the details results in the usurpation of powers of the state by the Centre through the ED and was in stark contravention of the principles of federalism under the Constitution.
Further, there were several FIRs registered as regards illegal mining in each district, which were being duly investigated by the state machinery, he added.
The district collectors have neither been served with a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report nor the details of the investigation that was being conducted, and have thus been deprived of any knowledge of the allegations and the background to the issues being sought to be investigated by the ED.
The senior official said sand, a minor mineral, is a subject matter under the Constitution over which the state exercises exclusive power.
Therefore, the ED was not entitled to enquire and investigate into the subject matter or matter connected therewith, he added.
In its objection, the ED said the petitioner self-assumed that it has issued summons to various District Collectors, in a fishing and roving enquiry.
"The said assumption is false. On the contrary, the Directorate is in direct possession of enough crucial evidence of proceeds of crime generated out of criminal activity and it is necessary to examine such District Collectors in the course of investigation as to the criminal activity that has happened in their jurisdictions. Considering the sensitivity of such crucial evidence and information pending investigation, the Directorate would provide the same in a sealed envelope, to this Hon'ble High Court," the agency said.
It was 'perplexing' the State Government itself has filed this writ to protect the various accused persons who have cheated the State Exchequer.
Instead of assisting the ED to investigate the offence and related money laundering, "the State Government has been repeatedly attempting to stonewall the investigation, for the reasons best known to them," the agency added.
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